According to the recent statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, US military did not commit a transgression (neither constitutional, nor legal), as it provided members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force with medical assistance and intelligence information during the Oplan Exodus.
This government operation against terrorists on January 25 in Maguindanao resulted in death of more than sixty people, forty-four of which were elite policemen. At the beginning of February Manila Times reported that there were US soldiers among the policemen Special Action Force. The Senate requested explanations and SAF Chief Director Getulio Napeñas acknowledged that there were indeed six American troops at the SAF command post on January 25, who provided intelligence information on one of the terrorists, Zulikfli bin Hir alias Marwan, and were going to arrest two bomb makers, Amin Baco and Basit Usman.
However, according to Napeñas, none of the troops took part at the combat. Last week SAF Chief Director added that these six US soldiers were from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, which was designed to train and assist Philippine counterterrorism forces since 2002. The soldiers took part in joint military exercises with Armed Forces of the Philippines and had right to observe and partially participate in the operation according to the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Except for the troops at the command post, the Philippine government obtained a detailed map of the area in Mamasapano, where the target terrorists were located. According to Napeñas, it happened three days before Oplan Exodus was performed. After the operation SAF Chief Director required a chopper to evacuate the injured troopers, which took part at Oplan Exodus, and he had to request it from US military. Napeñas claims that it was all the cooperation between Philippine government and US.
Justice Secretary finds such involvement of US military acceptable in conditions of global war against terrorism. Besides, US didn’t break any constitutional laws, according to which the only prohibited acts are the use of nuclear weapons, military bases establishment without consent of the government and intervention in the sovereign state’s affairs. As long as Philippine government keeps all security operations under its complete control, no one can blame US for transgression.
However, the Makabayan-bloc does not agree with such view on things. On Wednesday’s hearing at the House of Representatives it claimed that the presence of the US troops at the SAF post, as well as help of intelligence forces and medical assistance, proves that US intervened and supervised Oplan Exodus directly, thus breaking the law.